After a strong showing against the Islanders on Tuesday, the New York Rangers will hope to find some chemistry in unlikely places tonight.
- New York Rangers
- New Jersey Devils
- NHL, Today, 7:00 PM on MSG, Full Preview
- Madison Square Garden, New York, NY
Having said that, fans will take wins over the Islanders in any fashion, at any time.
While looking ahead to tonight, there are questions that need to be answered and blanks that need to be filled in. Here is the lineup for tonight’s game.
Jimmy Vesey, Kevin Hayes, Rick Nash
Nathan Gerbe, Brandon Pirri, Pavel Buchnevich
Michael Grabner, Marek Hrivik, Jesper Fast
Adam Tambellini, Maxim Lapierre, Nicklas Jensen
Nick Holden, Kevin Klein
Ryan Graves, Chris Summers
John Gilmour, Dylan McIlrath
Antti Raanta and Mackenzie Skapski will split time in goal.
Right off of the bat, the first line is intriguing. Not only will it be important to see how Jimmy Vesey matches up with NHL players, but also to see how Kevin Hayes and Rick Nash look.
We might as well call that line the “we have something to prove” line.
How about Brandon Pirri’s goal on Tuesday night?
Yes it is the preseason, but Pirri’s power play tally on the rush was the type of goal that the Rangers just couldn’t score last season. If he can continue to showcase that shot and jump moving forward, he will be an important piece for the bottom six.
Pirri’s goal gives you 50% off all regular menu priced pizzas today at https://t.co/C92NtOSNnA with code Rangers3 (NYNJCT) @PapaJohns_NYpic.twitter.com/Cymuc2lV7o
— New York Rangers (@NYRangers) September 28, 2016
While it was pretty clear that Buchnevich has some work to do when it comes to adjusting to the NHL (and the new culture), his hockey sense was pretty impressive.
While it remains to be seen if it will translate once teams are skating their A squads, Buchnevich made some impressive no-look passes and has a knack for finding open ice.
Finding open ice was, again, something which was sorely missed from the Rangers’ game last year. Open ice leads to cycling, which eventually leads to scoring opportunities.
Michael Grabner will make his MSG Blueshirt debut, and while his speed will certainly be showcased, his production (or lack thereof) will be under the microscope.
With the departure of players like Dominic Moore, the Rangers will need gritty skaters who can produce when it counts. While Moore didn’t bring much speed, he often scored goals when the Rangers needed a “pick me up”.
Grabner is certainly an upgrade, but whether or not he can inject life into that fourth line is an important question which needs to be answered.
I have to say, I was very disappointed with Nicklas Jensen’s Tuesday performance. I admittedly had Jensen as a possible secret weapon going into the 2016-17 season, but he now has me rethinking that statement.
The fact that Jensen is on the roster again shouldn’t be considered a good thing. It is most likely the last step before he is shipped back to Hartford, rather than than a chance at a roster spot. Unless he wants to be an AHL journeyman, Jensen needs to show the coaching staff something tonight.
Don’t forget about Raanta either.
With the extra games that Henrik Lundqvist played as a result of the World Cup, the Rangers will want to give Raanta a bigger workload this season.
Add to that equation the fact that Raanta becomes a headcase when he is stapled to the bench and a larger workload looks like a win-win.
Having said that, if he becomes a liability then the Rangers could be in trouble come April, especially if they are bidding for a playoff spot.